Thursday, 15 March 2012

Happy talk, keep talking happy talk.

I've started work proper on the "Vesuvian Reforms" of GASLIGHT.  If needs be, go back to one of my earlier posts for the "GASLIGHT is great as it is, but..." disclaimers.  To summarise, I'm doing this to tailor the game to better fit the tastes of me and my group.  This is totally unofficial, in no way endorsed by Chris and Buck, and I'm NOT trying to encourage other people to use these house rules.  But if one of the things I'm changing is something that's put you off GASLIGHT in the past, maybe my tweaks might improve the game for you.

As mentioned previously, the current Morale & Tests of Manhood mechanic, while I really admire the elegance and the thinking behind it, is one that doesn't work for my group.  My players all seem to automatically write off any unit that fails a check, never bothering to "rally" them, making the process of rolling the individual reactions a waste of time.

My objectives in writing these new Morale rules were (1) keep to the spirit of the original rules i.e. stateless morale, (2) give a broadly similar result to the original rules (3) be able to represent different troop qualities without using the "unit size = quality" idea from the Compendium (4) Get away from the original 10-man unit limitation and (5) Be as quick and simple in play as possible

The Compendium didn't shy away from suggesting new attributes for GASLIGHT (like the Swoop, Soar etc attributes for flyers) so the simplest thing to do was to take the original base target number (i.e. 10 for the number of men in a unit) and make that a new morale attribute, which I've called Steel. If you were playing an ACW or Western based game, you might want to use the name "Sand" instead.  I did briefly toy with the idea of using the name "Stiffness"... as in "stiff upper lip", but I figured that would lead to way too much bawdy sniggering.

So everyone has a Steel attribute which defaults to 10.  Elite troops have 12, Poorer troops have 8.

Instead of reducing this directly by the number of casualties, I set a penalty for every 25% casualties. I think it's easier to intuit that a 7 man unit that's lost 3 men has lost more than 25% but not quite 50% for a -2 penalty, than it is to divide your roll by (20/7=)2.85 as per the current guidelines.

Finally I wanted the severity of hits that vehicles take to affect their morale checks - vehicle morale checks are something we've always forgotten to do, but since they currently just boil down to "anything but a 20" unless the vehicle has lost some crew.  The crew of a vehicle that's just taken a penetrating hit should be shaken up.

For the results, I went with a much simpler graded response.  How much you fail the Steel check by determines how bad the morale failure is.  For each level of failure, half the surviving unit will have one reaction, while the other half will have a reaction one step worse.  So half your unit might fall back 6" in good order, while the other half will run 12" away.  I've also got specific results for Vehicles and, a departure from the original rules, Main Characters.  The original rules state that Main Characters are immune to Morale... but then again one of the character skills is "Nerves of Steel" which allows a character to "never fail morale", which is a bit of a niggling inconsistency.

It looses a little bit of the current randomness, where a lone berserker might charge the enemy.  But it does leave a "broken" unit somewhat scattered, though not as badly as per the current rules.  It would typically only take one turn of movement to bring all the troops back into unit integrity, making rallying a more attractive option.  And I think it'll be a lot quicker in practice than resolving the current rules.

The result is a nice, tidy modular Morale mechanism that you can easily slot into an otherwise unmodified GASLIGHT game, by simply assuming that everyone has a Steel of 10.  We'll definitely be using these rules in the next GASLIGHT game, even if the rest of the Vesuvian Reforms are nowhere near completion by then.

For your consideration

Morale and Tests of Manhood


  1. Could I just suggest you change the background and font colour of this blog? I would love to read your postings, I really would. But the high contrast makes my eyes water after one paragraph.

    I hope you take this as constructive criticism, in the friendly vein it is intended. Cheers and keep up the good work.

  2. Funny, I'd taken great pains to pick the old colour scheme precisely because I found it easier on the eyes. But that could be a function of my red-green colour blindness.

    I've read that some people can't adjust to light-text on dark, despite studies that say overall it's more readable than black on white, so I've switched colour scheme for you. Hope that makes things easier for you.

    Of course, now I can'r read it myself, so except lots moar typign erorrs to slip thrugh now!

  3. Oh, that is much, must better from mine (and I suspect most of your readers') point of view.

    I wonder if it is possible to find a scheme that is suitable to us all, including your red-green colour blindness?

    Anyway, I'm now going to make myself a nice cup of coffee and settle down to read all the back-posts on your blog!

  4. Cool. I'll send you my invoice, charged at standard web-designer rates. You can sort out with the other 34 readers who'll pay what.
    Waffling on about steam tanks is free. Fannying around with Blogger templates is too much like real work! :-)

    Anyone got any actual feedback on the morale rules? I'd be interested in hearing from non-Gaslight players, viewing it as a generic mechanic. Any statistical glitches I've missed?

  5. Never played Gaslight nor seen it played. Overall it looks ok, didn't see anything (after a quick look over) but I typically need to play before what is obviously a problem hits me over the head. One thing that puzzles me is the roll 1d20 and divide by two. Why not roll 1d10? (no answer needed - suspect the actual rules cover this).

    In response to the "nerves of steel" given to a character, vs characters not ever needing to roll for morale. My initial thought was that a character with "nerves of steel" would inspire other non-character figures.

    1. The half D20 is a hangover from the original rules. Buck says that they deliberately kept the number of different dice types needed to a minimum.

      Since you half and round down, it does produce a tiny kink in the probabilities, but in practice I don't think anyone minds if you use a D10.

  6. "The original rules state that Main Characters are immune to Morale... but then again one of the character skills is "Nerves of Steel" which allows a character to "never fail morale", which is a bit of a niggling inconsistency."

    That's not what the rules say. Main Characters do not make morale checks when they are by thelvelves (i.e., unattached). When they are part of a UNIT that fails morale, they must roll for results of morale failure, just like the other members of the unit. I don't see an inconsistency.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Buck. You're absolutely right, of course. I guess I've been thinking in solely in terms of unattached Main Characters, forgetting that the unit leaders are also considered MCs. And although in practice we don't give Skills to unit leaders, by the book they're eligible and ought to have them, so Nerves of Steel makes sense in that context.

      By the way, I can't actually find the rule in the Compendium that says "Main Characters that are not attached to units do not make morale checks". That line seems to have disappeared from the Morale and Tests of Manhood section.

      It just goes to show you that no matter how well you think you know a set of rules, sometimes what you read isn't what the author wrote (and sometimes what the author wrote isn't what they meant, either!) I've just also read that I've been handling unit integrity completely wrong - keeping unit members within 2" of another member, instead of all unit members within 12" of the leader (that must be from a completely different game!)

  7. By the way, I think your changes sound interesting. Have you tried them in a game?